Structural dynamics of Smoothened (SMO) in ciliary membrane and its interaction with membrane lipids
"The Smoothened receptor (SMO, a 7 pass transmembrane domain, Class F GPCR family protein) plays a crucial role in the Hedgehog (HH) signaling pathway, which is involved in embryonic development and is implicated in various types of cancer throughout the animal kingdom. In the absence of HH signaling, SMO is inhibited by Patched 1 (PTC1; a 12 pass transmembrane domain protein), which is localized in the primary cilia. HH binding leads to the dislocation of PTC1 from the cilia, thus making way for SMO to localize in the primary cilia, as an essential prerequisite for its activation. We have carried out MARTINI coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations of SMO in POPC and in ciliary membrane models, respectively, to study the interactions of SMO with cholesterol and other lipid molecules in the ciliary membrane, and to gain molecular-level insights into the role of the primary cilia in shaping the functional dynamics of SMO. We are able to identify the interaction of membrane cholesterols with definite sites and domains within SMO and relate them with known cholesterol-binding sequence and structure motifs. We show that cholesterol interactions with the transmembrane domain TMD, unlike those with the cysteine-rich domain (CRD) and the intracellular domain (ICD), are through residues belonging to known cholesterol-binding motifs. Notably, a few persistent interactions of cholesterol with lower TM cholesterol-binding domains are governed by the presence of multiple cholesterol-binding motifs. These analyses have also helped to identify and define a strict cholesterol consensus motif (CCM), which may well steer cholesterol into the hitherto identified binding sites within the TMD of SMO. We have also reported the interaction of phosphatidylinositol 4-phosphate with the intracellular region of transmembrane (TM) helices (TM1, TM3, TM4, and TM5), intracellular loop1, helix8, and Arg/Lys clusters of the ICD. Structural analysis of SMO domains shows significant changes in the CRD and ICD, during the course of the simulation. Further detailed analysis of the dynamics of the TMD reveals the movements of TM5, TM6, and TM7, linked with the helix8, which are possibly involved in shaping the conformational disposition of the ICD. The movement of these TM helices could possibly be a consequence of interactions involving the extracellular domain and extracellular loops. In addition, our analysis also shows that phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate (PI4P), along with some ICD cholesterols, are implicated in anchoring SMO in the membrane."